The Significance of Tamika Catchings
Celebrating her work on the court and in the community.
The best part about this article is that Tamika Catchings has no idea I’m writing it.
If I’m honest, that’s how she would prefer it – Catchings is one of the most humble and gracious people I’ve ever had the fortune of knowing. There simply isn’t one ounce of arrogance in Catchings – only an infectious confidence and an indelible belief in doing the right thing.
When she talks about her hardships growing up (hearing loss, speech therapy, and ruthless classmates) she does so with a matter of fact approach. She is and always has been proud of the person she is both on and off the court. After all, the teasing and adversity she faced growing up has helped shape her into the person she is today – a six-time WNBA All-Star, four-time Defensive Player of the Year, and two-time Olympic gold medalist.
As the WNBA enters its 15th year of existence in 2011, the work Tamika Catchings has done in the community needs to be celebrated all the more. You’ll find little disagreement that Catchings is already one of the greatest women’s basketball players the world has ever seen. More poignantly though, that’s what makes the following statement so remarkable – her legacy could be ultimately remembered more for her work in the community than for her accomplishments on the court.
That’s how momentous her contributions have been to the world…and she is just getting started.
In late 2010, Catchings was nominated for the inaugural 2010 United Nations NGO Positive Peace Awards in the Professional Athlete category. This award is viewed as a 21st century peace prize – an extraordinary honor. She was also nominated for the 2011 Jefferson Awards for Public Service that recognizes outstanding professional athletes who make a remarkable commitment to their surrounding communities. More recently, however, she had the great fortune of giving the commencement address at her alma mater’s (University of Tennessee) School of Education, Health and Human Sciences in Thompson-Boling Arena. On June 9th, she and the Catch The Stars Foundation will recognize the academic & athletic achievements of 30 high school students and award two $2,500 scholarships during her annual Catch The Stars Scholar Athletes Ceremony.
She has previously won the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award, the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award, and was personally invited by President George W. Bush to attend the 2004 State of the Union Address where she spent the evening with Laura Bush and other honored guests.
Remember, this is a player who has already cemented herself in the WNBA record books just nine years into her professional career. She is currently 2nd all-time in total steals (708), 4th in free-throws made (1,290), 8th all-time in total points (4,665), 8th all-time in total rebounds (2,134), and 10th all-time in total assists (1,032).
The example Catchings continually sets for young women everywhere is invaluable and nearly impossible to overstate. Her passion for helping kids achieve their dreams is unwavering and something that should be appreciated by all. When she speaks to children about working hard and having confidence in yourself, they aren’t just words – she has, literally, lived them.
In a world where female athlete’s are unfairly objectified and dismissed, Tamika Catchings has managed to generate respect and admiration across the board. Again, this is merely a bi-product of who she is as a person. Her goal isn’t to attain mass respect or popularity; it’s to help children in need to the best of her ability by sharing her own experiences growing up.
The importance of the example she has set is exemplified in the thousands of kids she has affected positively over the years. She and the Catch The Stars Foundation place a heavy emphasis on health, confidence, mentorship, and education – something the Indianapolis community, and the world, sorely needs.
In the mainstream media as well as the professional sports world, we hear far more negative stories than uplifting ones; that’s just how the world is today. Still, Catchings has managed to break the mold. Her qualities and beliefs transcend race, gender, ethnicity, and borders.
If you’re looking for the quintessential role model, you need look no further than Tamika Catchings.